There’s a Measles Outbreak, and it’s Hurting Our Children. Learn How You Can Be Proactive11 months ago | Family Health
By Joy Stephenson-Laws, JD, Founder
There is an increase in the outbreak of measles in the United States. Measles is a virus and reportedly one of the most contagious of all infectious diseases. It is considered the most deadly of all childhood rash/fever illnesses and spreads just like the flu and whooping cough, through tiny droplets when infected people cough, sneeze, or talk. You can get the virus from touching a surface with these droplets or coming into contact with someone who has the virus.
Early symptoms of measles may include a high fever, runny nose, cough, watery and red eyes and a sore throat. Three to five days after symptoms start, a rash breaks out called “The Measles Rash.”
Complications from measles range from mild to more severe. For example, measles may cause ear infections and diarrhea. On the more severe end, people may get pneumonia and encephalitis (swelling of the brain). In more rare cases, a person can also have long-term complications.
Measles is particularly dangerous in children under the age of five and adults over the age of 20.
Unfortunately, measles has recently been an unwelcome guest in many areas of the country.
- New York’s Rockland County. As of April 24, 2019, there have been 200 confirmed reported cases of measles in Rockland County.
- New York City. As of April 24, 2019, there have been 390 confirmed cases of measles in Brooklyn and Queens since October.
- Washington. As of April 24, 2019, there have been 72 confirmed cases.
- New Jersey. As of April 23, 2019, there have been 14 confirmed measles cases that have been reported.
- California. As of April 24, 2019, there have been 38 confirmed measles cases that have been reported.
- Michigan. As of April 17, 2019, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services has confirmed 43 total cases of measles.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently reported 695 cases of measles from 22 states. There has even been a major scare at two Los Angeles universities, where nearly 300 students and university employees were quarantined.
In 2000, measles was declared eliminated because there had not been presence of continuous disease transmission for more than a year. “This was thanks to a highly effective vaccination program in the United States, as well as better measles control in the Americas region,” according to the CDC.
Now, the measles problem has become so bad that the CDC recently released a statement saying measles cases in the U.S. are the highest since measles were eliminated in 2000.
And to put into perspective just how highly contagious measles is “...one measles infected person can give the virus to 18 others. In fact, 90% of unvaccinated people exposed to the virus become infected. You can develop measles just by being in a room where a person with measles has been, up to 2 hours after that person is gone. You can also get measles from an infected person even before they have a measles rash,” according to one source.
The “anti-vaccination movement” may have contributed to this recent outbreak of measles.
“There have been recent trends of parents in Western countries refusing to vaccinate their children due to numerous reasons and perceived fears,” according to this 2018 report from the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
(Some of these reasons may be religious, and some parents may fear vaccines will cause a myriad of health issues, including brain damage, autism and immunity issues. You can read more about this in great detail in this 2016 NIH report).
“While opposition to vaccines is as old as the vaccines themselves, there has been a recent surge in the opposition to vaccines in general, specifically against the MMR (measles, mumps, and rubella) vaccine, most notably since the rise in prominence of the notorious British ex-physician, Andrew Wakefield, and his works. This has caused multiple measles outbreaks in Western countries where the measles virus was previously considered eliminated.”
For example, the measles outbreaks in Brooklyn and Queens mainly occurred in Orthodox Jewish communities. This recent New York Times report discusses how “The Vaccine Safety Handbook,” which is full of false information saying vaccines are not safe, was circulated through this community.
“The handbook, created by a group called Parents Educating and Advocating for Children’s Health, or Peach, is targeted at ultra-Orthodox Jews, whose expanding and insular communities are at the epicenter of one of the largest measles outbreaks in the United States in decades,” reports the New York Times.
“Peach’s handbook — with letters signed by rabbis and sections like ‘Halachic Points of Interest’ — has become one of the main vehicles for misinformation among ultra-Orthodox groups, including Hasidim. Its message is being shared on hotlines and in group text messages.”
So in New York, reportedly what happened is that an unvaccinated child contracted measles during a trip to Israel (where a large outbreak of the disease is occuring). “Since then, there have been additional people from Brooklyn and Queens who were unvaccinated and acquired measles while in Israel. People who did not travel were also infected in Brooklyn or Rockland County.”
Often the reason why people get measles is that an unvaccinated person travels to an area outside of the U.S. where measles is a common disease, contracts it and brings it back home to their community where many other members of the community are also likely not vaccinated.
Once measles infiltrates an unvaccinated community, it is very difficult to get it under control.
“Other tight-knit communities — like the Somali-American community in Minnesota, the Amish in Ohio, and, more recently, Russian-language immigrants in Washington — have recently fallen victim to measles outbreaks as a result of vaccine refusal,” according to this recent report.
There are also several celebrities who have spoken out about how they are vaccine-hesitant and believe vaccines may lead to autism. Actress and former Playboy model Jenny McCarthy has been very vocal (and even wrote a book) about how she believes her son’s autism was caused by him getting the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine.
(The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and other credible sources have explicitly said that vaccines do not cause autism).
The White House has recently suggested that all parents vaccinate their children due to the recent measles outbreaks.
There are significant amounts of credible evidence showing that vaccines are very safe. And as we can see, the consequences of not being vaccinated can be very harmful not just to the individual who is not vaccinated but also people this individual comes into contact with.
“There have been no confirmed measles deaths in this country [due to the recent outbreaks], but officials believe it is just a matter of time. Dozens of victims — most of them young children — have been hospitalized,” (New York Times).
- As many as one out of every 20 children with measles gets pneumonia, the most common cause of death from measles in young children.
- About one child out of every 1,000 who gets measles will develop encephalitis that can lead to convulsions and can leave the child deaf or with intellectual disability.
- For every 1,000 children who get measles, one or two will die from it.
How can you be proactive?
Since measles is a virus, it cannot be treated with antibiotics. There is actually no specific treatment for measles, but symptoms usually improve within seven to 10 days. All you can really do is treat the symptoms by resting and drinking plenty of fluids. However, as mentioned, serious complications can occur which is why this is such a dangerous virus. And if you are elderly or already have a compromised immune system, your body may really have a hard time fighting the virus. If a pregnant woman gets measles, this can also be very dangerous to the unborn baby.
Obviously, vaccination plays an important role in preventing measles. The benefit of vaccinations to the health of the public far outweighs any perceived disadvantages of being vaccinated. To get more information on vaccinations, particularly when your child should get them, read here.
You also have to be very proactive if you are traveling to parts of the world where measles is a common health issue. Read here on how to travel safely.
In addition, you should also do the following:
- Learn how to boost your immune system. The immune system is your body’s greatest defense mechanism against viruses and infections. At the risk of getting a bit technical, viruses work by invading your cells in order to survive and replicate themselves. Once inside, the immune system is unable to ‘see’ the virus and does not know that the host cell is infected. So to overcome this, our bodies have special types of white blood cells which will “display pieces of protein from inside the cell upon the cell surface. If the cell is infected with a virus, these pieces of peptide will include fragments of proteins made by the virus,” (British Society for Immunology).
Other cells, including special ones called cytotoxic T cells and natural killer cells, kill cells that are infected with viruses. This prevents “survival of the invading virus.”
So clearly it is important to ensure that you have adequate numbers of these protective white blood cells so that your immune system is strong. And one way to do this is to give your body the nutrients it needs to protect itself from viruses such as measles.
Eating a diet rich in nutrient-dense foods, such as fruits and vegetables, is imperative. And if you have difficulty absorbing adequate nutrients from the foods you eat, consider putting those critical nutrients directly into your bloodstream. You can read about specific nutrients that may keep your immune system in top shape, here.
- Get regular nutrient testing. To help your body ward off illness, it is important that you are nutritionally balanced. If a nutrient test reveals you have too little or not enough of a certain nutrient, like zinc, a competent healthcare professional can work with you on making the necessary dietary changes and recommend quality supplements if you need them.
- Don’t underestimate the power of soap and water. Handwashing is one of the easiest and most effective ways to prevent the spread of infectious diseases. To learn proper handwashing technique, read here. And never sneeze or cough directly into your hands. Use a handkerchief or cough into the inner part of your elbow.
- Don’t ignore your sneeze or cough. Or any other symptoms, for that matter. In the earlier stage of measles, you may confuse your symptoms with the common cold or stomach bug. But if your symptoms are persistent and you “just don’t feel right,” it is better to be safe than sorry and go see a competent healthcare professional.
Let’s be proactive and stop measles in its tracks!
Enjoy your healthy life!
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